Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brazilian-cut knickers sets aside M&S blushes

It will have them blushing in the Shires. But Brazilian-cut knickers show to have come to the rescue of Marks & Spencer.

The retailer has sold 500,000 pairs of them from the previous three months in a three-for-£10 deal, up 64pc on last year.

Swimming dresses are up 50pc on last year, and £49.50 maxi-costumes have been selling like hot cakes.

Somewhere else though, costumes have not accurately being flying off the shelves at the retailer.
M&S said today that like-for-like sales at its clothing division were flat over the 13 weeks to July 2. This evaluates with City expectations of a boost of around 1pc.

M&S has had to put its prices up due to increasing commodity costs, meaning that the number of individual garments that it really sold fell compared with last year.

Marc Bolland, M&S’s chief executive who will today face shareholders for the first time at his presentation AGM, said that the company is ready for a harder few months ahead. “We are vigilant about the viewpoint,” he said.

The flat sales should come as no surprise. The British Retail Consortium said this week that women wear sales in June decline by the biggest amount so far this year.

The mood music on the high street grimmer than it has been for years as customers’ pocket money is whacked by high inflation.

Fascinatingly, Bolland said that although M&S shoppers are involved to its entry-price ‘basic’ ranges, its top-priced ‘better’ and ‘best’ lines have seen stronger sales. In harder times, customers want quality, he says.

Experts said that the trading update was “comparatively reassuring”. The key word here is relative. Given the awful trading at other high street chains, M&S is really getting market share.
Food sales have been better at M&S, boosting by 3.3pc on a like-for-like basis over the quarter. Further innovation and new products have helped things here.

But in common the consumer economy remains difficult. “We are observing that people are eager to safe their summer holidays and so are eager to decline their spending in some areas. They are cutting out on dining out, for example,” says Bolland, adding that increasing petrol prices are a main issue.

He will put a brave face on it today at M&S’s large AGM at London’s Royal Festival Hall. He will illustrate to M&S’s legion of loyal, conservative and elderly private shareholders – who will be hungry, thirsty, happy, grumpy and verbose in same method – that the series is holding its own in a tough market. He will also outline M&S’s objectives for increasing in India, China and Europe, focusing that there is more to M&S than the UK.
I speculate whether he will quote the Brazilians.

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